Minister Defends Male Choice For Women's Bank Chair

Tuesday, 14 March 2017  Radio VOP

HARARE – Women's Affairs Minister Nyasha Chikwinya has defended her decision to appoint a male board member to the soon to be opened Women’s Bank, something feminist groups say flew in the face of ongoing attempts to uplift local women.

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe CEO Matthew Kunaka was introduced by Chikwinya during last week’s International Women's Day celebrations in Harare.

The event was attended by hundreds of local women.

In her address, Chikwinya said she was inundated with demands for her to second a woman to the position, something she said she vehemently disputed insisting she went for competence as opposed to one’s sex.

"Some people said to be I should appoint a female chairperson but I stood my ground saying we do not operate like that,” Chikwinya said.

"We are looking for a competent person who is able to drive the bank forward.

"A man or a woman with a vision and passion for women who is able to articulate issues for women and bring whatsoever women want in terms of financial inclusion on the table.”

However, this did not go down well with the women's movement that is advocating women’s increased involvement in managerial positions.

Grace Chirenje, a feminist, said Kunaka’s appointment was a step backwards in the country’s painstaking efforts to advance women's affairs.

"The appointment shows lack of political will towards women's human rights development; it's simply not there. Women's spaces should be simply that, women's spaces.

"This is retrogressive unless it's a gender bank," Chirenje said.

Similarly, Nyasha Sengayi, also a feminist, said the government was showing lack of commitment towards fulfilling its own pledges of empowering local women.

"It is sad to note that 36 years into independence, a key leader who is leading a women's ministry is showcasing serious structural challenges by supporting a move such as this within her ministry,” Sengayi said.

"We are past the age of being directed by men on issues concerning our economic empowerment as this erodes our gains in the fight for equality as the women's movement.

"The minister should seriously consider changing this as soon as possible. Gender inequality is unacceptable in this era.”

Don Mavhudzi, an activist, said while a woman should head the board, the candidate should be experienced and competent.

"There are many competent, well qualified and experienced women out there who should be given a chance.

"Having a man leading such an organisation is tantamount to claiming that women cannot lead themselves.

“They should be empowered in every respect, beginning with the leadership of the institutions that are fronting women issues.”

It is not the first local women have been up in arms with a government official for allegedly overlooking them on issues to do with top leadership positions.

President Robert Mugabe was in 2013 slammed for appointing a cabinet which only had 17 percent female component, months after the country had adopted a new constitution which prescribed equal opportunities for both men and women.

The envisaged Women's Bank is meant to address women's access to credit.

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